A reform group began pushing for more flexible alimony laws in February 2016, claiming that permanent spousal support is unfair. Now, state Legislators are considering a bill that would give judges in family courts more discretion when making decisions on alimony payments.
Wyman Oxner, S.C. Alimony Reform President, likened permanent alimony to “involuntary servitude” and “slavery.” He calls South Carolina’s current laws “archaic.”
“You’re giving somebody else your wages and it’s not in your control,” Oxner argues. “Nobody should have to pay another person simply because their marriage ended.”
“One side wins the lottery. The other side is in prison the rest of their life,” he told The State.
Under current law, the former breadwinner pays spousal support until the ex remarries or lies with a new partner for more than 90 consecutive days. The more than 700 members of the S.C. Alimony Reform group say the current system is unfair.
After more than a year of devising legislation to even the scales, lawmakers are now considering a law that would provide more flexibility in alimony orders.
The legislation, which has been approved by a Senate subcommittee, would make it easier for judges to order non-permanent alimony payments. The measure would also allow for court orders to be altered if either party’s financial circumstances change.
If the payee’s health deteriorates or retires, for example, a judge may terminate or modify alimony payments.
Members of the South Carolina Alimoney Reform group packed into the committee room where the hearing was heard.
The group is just a small part of a growing movement advocating for men’s rights in divorce. From custody to alimony, men-focused law firms are popping up across the country with the aim of helping men achieve fair settlements and agreements in divorces.
Several men testified at the hearing, stating that South Carolina’s current alimony laws have left them bankrupt or unable to retire. Some have been put in jail for the inability to make payments.
But staunch opposers of the bill say the legislation will leave women in need without financial support.
“A lot of these men in South Carolina don’t want their wives to work,” argued family law attorney Vickie Eslinger when speaking to The Post and Courier. “They want them to stay home and raise the children. The men advance their careers and build up their retirement and the wives have nothing.”
Oxner contends that alimony laws often keep men and women from being able to retire. Those who are unable to make their payments can be jailed.
Eslinger says more than 90% of alimony cases are set through the divorce agreement, not by a judge.
“Unlike other agreements, you can go and ask for the terms to be adjusted. If there’s a material change in cicumstances, such as losing a job, a judge can modify or terminate the agreement,” Eslinger said.
Proponents of the legislation say the changes will give judges more freedom when handling alimony orders, but still gives people seeking alimony access to the court system.
The bill will now be put before the full Senate Judiciary Committee.